Jason Motte won’t miss the all-day road trips.
When the Chicago Cubs take the field today, it will be the first Spring Training game in Arizona for the former St. Louis Cardinals closer.
Playing for the first time in Arizona’s Cactus League, Motte said he’s going to enjoy riding the team bus around the Phoenix area for games instead of the all-day trips necessary in Florida’s Grapefruit League.
“The 45-minute bus ride will be a lot better than some of the five-hour trips we took in Florida,” Motte told me last month during a phone conversation in which we discussed his Strikeout Cancer Foundation and the possibility of the Cubs winning the World Series, which both Sporting News and Back to the Future Part II predicted.
The Cubs, who make their Spring Training home in Mesa, begin play today with split squad games against the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants.
Motte’s former team, the Cardinals, play spring games in Jupiter, Fla., which is the southern-most city in the Grapefruit League on the Atlantic coast. The Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox play across the state on the Gulf of Mexico coast in Fort Myers. The Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros play in the central Florida cities of Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee, respectively.
The Cubs and Cardinals open the season against each other on April 5 at Wrigley Field. Motte said it will feel a bit weird getting dressed in the home clubhouse. It will be even stranger when the Cubs play at Busch Stadium from May 4-7 and he’ll be in the visiting clubhouse.
But the biggest adjustment he may have to make when returning to St. Louis is when he eats at Pappy’s Smokehouse, a very popular barbeque restaurant in St. Louis. When the Cardinals play the Cubs, fans of Chicago’s Northside team “pay double” at Pappy’s, which was one of Motte’s favorite places in the Gateway City.
He still plans to grab a bite there when he’s in town, even though he knows now he’ll have to pay double. In the meantime, he’ll cherish those shorter road trips in Arizona.